Hanging by a Thread

By: Lexi Carmona

Life is the most precious thing in the world. If that were taken away at this moment, what would you do? Think about it. Really think about it. You will never grow up. You will never get that degree you have been working so hard for. But more importantly, you will never blossom into that successful flower you are meant to be. You will never see your future.

December 18, 2014, winter break. As cliché as this may sound, I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just gotten back from Disneyland with one of my good friends and I was sitting on my bed watching T.V. when my stepbrother walked into my room and sat next to me. He reeked of cigarettes and sadness. He seemed distraught. He was frustrated and something was obviously on his mind. Knowing my past, I turned off my T.V. and gave him my full attention.

“What’s wrong? Since when do you smoke cigarettes?”

With anger, he grabbed the remote out of my hand and turned my T.V. back on and said,

“Nothing. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Confused, I looked at him and said, “Nick*, I know you better than that. What’s going on?”

“I said nothing okay just leave me alone.”

“Clearly something’s wrong. You can’t just come in looking like a mess and expect me to ignore it.”

“I’ve been depressed okay.” He got up off my bed and started pacing, “ I am fed up with school and teachers and friends and I just can’t take it anymore. I am tired and I’m just done. I’m just another broken person suffering in this hectic world.”

“I understand, it happens to everyone. Even me.”

“No it’s different. I wish I was dead and honestly I don’t know why I am not.”

“Nicholas, stop! Just sit down and talk to me.”

He stopped pacing, looked me in my eye and said, “I want to kill myself.”

I want to kill myself. Those five words were unbearable; a shocking statement from a family member I do not want to lose even though we barley get along. I thought about it for a moment. Why does he want to die?

As much as I did not want to hear those words, my brother is giving me a gift. He is letting me in. By telling me he wants to die, he is giving me the opportunity to help him.

We recently just lost our aunt due to suicide back in February. It was hard to take in because you wonder how someone could be so weak, so broken, that it gets to the point where they do not want to live anymore. Between attempts and it actually happening, it has happened about six times in our family. But I guess if you add me, then seven times. My aunt overdosed on her medication, on purpose. While my brother on the other hand, is covered in his own battle scars. Just like I was.

“Why am I so depressed, Lexi?”

“I do not know. I wish I knew, Nick believe me.”

I began to think. How could a senior in high school who has a 4.56 GPA, is captain of varsity baseball, is president of Key Club, and has an academic scholarship to USC with hopes to study film and become a famous director be so depressed and hurting? For all I know, he is on top of the world right now, living his dream. What on earth do I not see?

I have never seen him like this before. But then again, I am living in a different state so I do not know what is going on in his life these days. But still, that is no excuse.

He has opened the door and now it is my turn to step up. He shared and now it is my turn to help. What I say to him is very important. I am full of different emotions towards his decision and I need to help him without saying the wrong thing. I should know what to say but I just cannot seem to put my finger on it. What can I say?

I was honestly amazed when he told me that he wanted to end his life, because I was in the same boat back in high school. I was depressed and not on medication and I hated life and going to school. But it all started in middle school. It was sixth grade and I was the new girl from a low-income family surrounded by kids who get allowances just for waking up in the morning. These kids grew up in a wealthy family and they used to look at me and call me the “peasant.” There were times when I went to school without a lunch because we just simply did not have enough money to keep our refrigerator stocked and the cafeteria fee was ridiculous for the type of food they served. And my real dad never even wanted me so getting money from him never happened.

Middle school was when I started to self-harm. Once high school started, that is when I felt like I could not possibly bring myself up. I felt like there was nothing else I was capable of doing to make me want to live anymore. I continued to cut myself throughout high school. I did a pretty good job at hiding them so others would not be alarmed. I played softball so the one spot that I knew I could hide without a problem was my legs since I had to wear pants anyway. No one knew. Not even my mom.

High school killed me emotionally, mentally, and physically. But I attended a suicide prevention group everyday after school on days I did not have softball, because that was the only other thing that kept me alive. I also got the idea to see a therapist and started to slowly get my life back on track. Softball, group meetings, and the fact that college was starting soon kept me alive. College was my only hope because I wanted to escape and start a new life and surround myself with people who did not know my past. Then senior year came. It was exactly what I needed at that moment. Senior year I met my boyfriend, Shane*, while we were both working at Six Flags Magic Mountain. He made me so happy; he was the reason I stopped attending group meetings and why I stopped cutting myself.

We were so in love. Well, at least I was in love with him. I was finally happy and for him to be the reason for the smile on my face instead of the blade in my hand was pretty magical. It was almost too magical. We spent every second of every day together. It was a love unlike any other. At least I thought it was. He was the first boyfriend that actually accepted my wounds. Because of this, I thought we were going to be together forever. And then September 2014 came.

I was still getting the hang of being in college and living in the dorms with roommates, who were awful by the way. My boyfriend had helped me move into my dorm in August alongside my parents so I was pretty delighted about that but then he went back to California because that is where he was attending college. I thought that long distance would not be a problem for us. But there was a problem. It was not the whole long distance thing but there was a huge problem. On September 26, I remember it like it was yesterday because that is when I relapsed; he had told me that he had been cheating on me for six months with my best friend Celina*. Okay cool.

Instead of picking up a blade, I decided to go out and drink the night away with my best friend and some random frat boy from my ENG 101 class who I actually became very close with for reasons that I regret. It was an experience I will never forget. I wanted to kill myself the next morning. I was so hung over and so heartbroken. It was a bad combination. I figured it would be the best option because as much as I wanted to, I cannot hide and ruin my life forever. But, I knew that is not what God wanted from me so I got up and decided to turn my life around.

Going back to my brother; he is depressed because people make fun of him for being the smart kid who has gotten nothing but A’s since the fifth grade. This is not something to tease people about. But, he is also gay. Now that seems like more of the reason why people are treating him so badly. Being gay at his high school is frowned upon because it is a Catholic school and everyone there thinks of homosexuality as a sin but it truly is not. But he believes he has sinned. He thinks of himself as a disappointment to the world. He thinks he is a waste and that is why he wants to end his life. But what do I say to convince him to stay?

Having attended group meetings and therapy sessions before, I already know that there are many things you can but should not say to a suicidal person. I wanted to tell him “you have so much to live for.” This statement seems like a great block of abundance and hope, but for someone so fixated on ending his or her own life, this statement is not good enough. Trust me. So I researched what to say.

Through my research, I found that there was not much I can do to help him. The research I found required me never leaving his side and always checking up on him. We live in two different states so none of this is even slightly possible. I mean, sure, I can check up with him over the phone, but it is not the same. You need to be there face to face with that person in a room where they feel comfortable so they can see how much you care and are willing to listen. I know what it is like to be in his position. A phone call a day will not make everything okay. Believe me.

I know how he feels. In high school, I felt worthless and I was always alone. But, unlike Nick, I did not tell anyone. It took me all night, looking for ways to help. Then it hit me. A Suicide Prevention Group. The same thing I did during my high school years. Why did I not think of this before? It is common sense. If it worked for me, I figured it would work for him. He did not seem to like the idea at first.

I told him my story and how I was the same way in high school. He seemed shocked. He said I was always smiling and I seemed like I had so many friends and a great life. It is amazing what a fake smile can do. I explained to him how it is sort of like Alcoholics Anonymous if you really think about it. You go, no one knows you, you share, and you build trust and support with everyone there, and you leave feeling stronger than you did when you walked in. I told him that everyone is there as a backbone. They are all going through the same thing as you. You might feel weird about it at first, but it grows on you. Believe me.

I finally got him to agree to go. Long story short, he is doing great. He has met friends through his group and he has even met his boyfriend. He and his boyfriend support each other and help each other tackle life day-by-day one step at a time. They are each other’s backbones and it is truly amazing. He has not harmed himself since February 2015 and I have not harmed myself since December 2013. We both check up on each other constantly to make sure we are still staying clean and our relationship as brother and sister has gotten stronger because of this. It is finally something we can both bond over, as crazy as it seems.

“Suicide is not cowardly. I’ll tell you what is cowardly; treating people so badly that they want to end their own lives.” –Ashley Purdy

Suicide is not a joke. Suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death, even after cancer and heart disease. It is the twelfth leading cause of death in the United States. “Nearly 30,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year and 750,000 people attempt it. It is time to raise awareness, increase empathy and kindness” (Hurley, 2014). If someone is in need of help, you can help. It is not easy, but it is possible. It is time to step up and help bring those numbers down.

Are you up for the challenge?

*Name changed


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